Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What do we mean when we talk about being happy?

Hubs and I ocassionally hit relational white water when we're talking about the future. Some of it has to do with different views on the pursuit of "security." I may naturally place a higher value on that elusive commodity than he does. Leaving my old life behind (and becoming a new mom of sorts!) has increased that greatly. Getting older, too. In my twenties, I didn't have a problem moving away from parents and striking off on adventures; now I just want to settle down and make sure everyone's OK.

Yet I've just married a guy who is counting the days until we can head for the open road. I'm confident we'll be able to chart a reasonable, mutually respectful and satisifying course in time. But am grateful we still have a couple of years to figure it out.

A recent article in The Atlantic Magazine on How Happiness Changes with Age may be relevant:
"Social psychologists describe this change as a consequence of a gradual shifting from promotion motivation -- seeing our goals in terms of what we can gain, or how we can end up better off, to prevention motivation -- seeing our goals in terms of avoiding loss and keeping things running smoothly. Everyone, of course, has both motivations. But the relative amounts of each differ from person to person, and can shift with experience as we age."
"In a recent set of studies, psychologists Cassie Mogliner, Sepandar Kamvar, and Jennifer Aaker looked for evidence of how our sense of happiness changes with age by analyzing twelve million personal blogs. Specifically, they were interested in seeing what kinds of emotions the bloggers mentioned when they talked about feeling 'happy.'

"They found that younger bloggers described experiences of happiness as being times when they felt excited, ecstatic, or elated -- they way you feel when you are anticipating the joys the future will bring - like finding love, getting ahead at work, or moving to a new town.

"Older bloggers were more inclined to describe happy experiences as moments of feeling peaceful, relaxed, calm, or relieved - they way you feel when you are getting along with your spouse, staying healthy, and able to make your mortgage payments. This kind of happiness is less about what lies ahead, and more about being content in your current circumstances."
My husband jokes that when he turned 40 he started counting backwards. That makes him the younger of the two of us, now! Maybe in this sense he is.

The Atlantic also mentions differing motivation structures for what we want from our jobs.
  • Those with more "promotion motivation," often younger, are looking for jobs where they can develop their skills. They will choose work environments that will help them grow and offer increasing responsibility. 
  • Those with more "prevention motivation," often older, are more concerned about job security and flexible work schedules.
It's pretty easy for me to see the shift in my own life. Just this weekend I was explaining to Hubs that I'd joined C.P., my previous ministry, and moved to Colorado, not because it was the only kind of ministry I'd want to be part of, but because it was an ideal place to find the kind of development and advancement opportunities I was seeking. I loved being in the middle of things, working at the hub of the wheel. The other ministries I was looking couldn't really provide that. And now? I miss it, but don't need it as much. So when I was looking for a new place on the ministry org chart, what I wanted was a team that was healthy and mature and would give me a fairly long leash. My criteria had changed.

C. is in a different place entirely. He's trying to start a new career. So he looks at it much the way I did when I was in my twenties. In the context of marriage, I think both of us may be tempted to look down on the other because we're in a different place on these things. Even as I hope he won't think of me as an old lady, I need to commit to not treating him as if there's something childish about his perspective and values.

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